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Best Dim Sum

What do you consider to be the best dim sum in Los Angeles? Thinking about going for a Sunday brunch/lunch.

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  1. I think the general consensus here is Sea Harbor or Elite. However, I'm in that small minority that feels that, if they're not pushing around the carts, you aren't really getting the full dim sum experience. :D In that respect, 888 and Capital Seafood are both very good. NBC used to be the best, but I haven't been since it changed owners. The old owner now has another restaurant, East Gourmet. I thought it was good the one time I had dim sum there, but reviews here seem to be mixed.

    Urasawa-san's favorite place is Sea Harbor, if that sways your opinion any. ;)

    23 Replies
    1. re: mrhooks

      I will be bringing some people from out of town to lunch and wanted to have some excellent dim sum, but I am looking for a place that has the carts. Does Sea Harbor or Elite not have carts? If you want carts, is the general consensus that 888 and Capital Seafood are the best options?

      1. re: jgilbert1000

        I actually like NBC > those 2 for carts. All of the top options, though, are indeed no-carts.

        1. re: chrishei

          Rather than go to Sea Harbor or Elite by 10:30 for an 11 a.m. lunch, which is too early for me, is it possible to go after the normal lunch hour and avoid crazy lines (e.g. 1:30 or 2:00?)

          1. re: jgilbert1000

            You can, but I wouldn't advise it (for the fear of the better stuff running out and most of the others sitting out). Not speaking from personal experience though - I always go before 11am.

            1. re: jgilbert1000

              no, don't go at the end of dim sum service. service is terrible (the waiters are eating with you). I did not notice a decline in quality at that time however.

              1. re: jgilbert1000

                I'd recommend going before 1:30pm because since they expect to shut down by 3pm, dim sum choices might be limited as some of the options might have been sold out by 1:30p or 2:00p.

            2. re: jgilbert1000

              Best bet for carts, especially if want to entertain out of town guests, is Ocean Star.

              Neither Elite nor Sea Harbour have carts, both are menus.

              Don't go at 1:30 or 2. That's just weird.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Us laowai have a more flexible relationship with dimsum, as we're not used to eating savory pastries and dumplings for breakfast/brunch. It's why Bao on Beverly serves happy hour and dinner dimsum.

                But everyone is right, jgilbert1000-- 11am is when the weekend crush really kicks in, but it's also when the full menu is available. (If you go at 2pm, you'll only get the leftovers). If you go to Elite at 10:30 you can sometimes only need to wait a few minutes. If you go at 11:00 or 11:30, plan on waiting a lot longer.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  > Us laowai have a more flexible relationship with dimsum, as we're not used to eating savory pastries and dumplings for breakfast/brunch.

                  My wife wholeheartedly agrees...

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    And Ipsedixit has taken compassionate pity on me. I confessed that I often buy dim sum midday, specifically so that I can eat it for dinner, with a glass of wine and the hubby.

                    Ips kindly brainstormed with me on reheating techniques, and no judging! : )

                    Maybe shoot for 1pm?

                    1. re: happybaker

                      Is it still dimsum if you're eating it at home? It seems to me that it's the whole experience that makes it so. Otherwise, you're just eating buns at home, and I don't call that dimsum. (I call it wufan :)

                      Then again, it doesn't really matter what you call it, does it?

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Well...

                        It's not the same experience as eating out, true.

                        But, it's still pretty exciting and tasty to us!

                        How 'bout we compromise and call it dim sum lunch before the mods smack us for getting off topic?

                      2. re: happybaker

                        Going for dim sum at 1 PM has its disadvantages. By then, the kitchen would have probably stopped making many of the dishes aside from a few standard ones (har gow, siu mai, etc.). And they will be making fewer of the standard ones as well, so you may need to wait longer for those.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    I agree with Ipsedixit. There is nothing like a huge, busy, noisy place with steaming carts rolling along the aisles to introduce first timers as well as out of towners to Dim Sum. Ocean Star is it. It is also not expensive to Dim Sum there.

                    1. re: selfportrait93

                      Even the top tier places (Elite/Sea Harbour) are not expensive if you stay away from the live tanks. With a group sharing lots of orders, you can easily get away with $15-20 per person, and at Ocean Star perhaps $10.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        There are people -- yes, them Chinese ones -- that consider $15-20 per person for dim sum highway robbery.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Then who are the Chinese who are supporting $150 per person banquet dinners at Sea Harbour or Elite ???

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Different meal, different outlook.

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      More importantly, which of these charges tea fee to those who deny tea?

                      1. re: TonyC

                        The ones that do charge a chopsticks fee, however.

                          1. re: ns1

                            You'll be forke.. er, never mind.

                2. Since trying and really enjoying both Sea Harbour and Elite, we haven't really thought about the carts that much. However, there is a lot to be said about the experience. The frenetic bustle, the smells and sights of the carts, actually seeing what is being offered, etc. Although we haven't been to dim sum in a while, I think mrhooks' list pretty much sums up your choices. Sea Harbour is exceptional, as is Elite, but go as early as possible. These places are not the huge palaces many had become accustomed to. The seating is limited and their popularity means the wait can be long.

                  38 Replies
                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Hiro-san's favorite definitely sways my opinion. What time should I get there?

                    1. re: lizziee

                      I believe Sea Harbor opens at 10AM. We usually go on weekends, and have arrived as late as 1015 to still be seated immediately, but YMMV. The lines increase exponentially every five minutes after 1030. Seriously. And this is true with Elite as well. You may want to call just to be sure on their hours.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        We went to Elite last weekend and put our names in at 1105 and were seated about half an hour later. With Elite and Sea Harbour you don't need to wait for them to "bring out the good stuff", since it's all steamed to order for you when you want it. They do walk around with "specials" but honestly, they're not THAT special.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          I went to Elite a few weekends ago. Arrived at 10:30 and were seated by 10:45. We were resigned for an hour wait (based on my last experience there) so this was a great surprise. We'll need to go more often.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            To echo what bulavinaka said above...last Saturday at Elite, I arrived at 1035 and was seated at 1105. I try to make it between 10-1030 and can usually be seated immediately. The bean curd roll is like silk and probably the best version in town.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              the sticky rice in banana leaf at Elite is miles better than Sea Harbour.

                              that said, Elite uses peanuts in chicken feet so we always go to Sea Harbour.

                              1. re: ns1

                                You mean sticky rice in lotus leaf? I agree, thats another item I feel Elite does best in town. Another one of my must haves.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  Let's not forget the snow buns.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    ...and their House Sugar Cake and their Honey BBQ Pastries (sorry, I don't have the exact name), and their Vegetable Rice Noodles and their Egg Custards and their Almond Shrimp Balls and their...

                                    1. re: liu

                                      Just had dim sum at Koi Palace up in SF, which I consider the best dim sum I've had between LA, SF, NYC.

                                      The beancurd rolls and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves at Elite are better than the versions at Koi.

                                  2. re: Porthos

                                    whoops, you're right. sticky rice in lotus leaf. must have item @ Elite.

                                  3. re: ns1

                                    ns1 do you have other dim sum recommendations in LA that are peanut-allergy friendly? We know Din Tai Fung is a good place, but that's not really dim sum in the traditional sense. Appreciate any tips!

                                    1. re: matlyst

                                      I just go to sea harbour and avoid any obvious peanut dishes.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        Yeah, but if it's a true and serious peanut allergy, cross contamination can close a windpipe.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Such is life with peanut allergies. Living in a bubble is not an option.

                                      2. re: matlyst

                                        Din Tai Fung is not dim sum. It's an atypical Taiwanese take on typical Shanghainese food, but I see since I've posted this you've modified your original post to reflect this ;)

                                        In general, the real Chinese restaurants of the San Gabriel Valley aren't so used to dealing with WPP (white people's problems), though the big dim summeries are more likely to have staff that speak functional English.

                                        Rather than risk being misunderstood on the phone and getting an inaccurate answer, your best bet is to go in with the characters printed out and show it to the staff, and see if they will accommodate you.

                                        Maybe someone can proofread my Chinese characters... not sure if this is understandable.

                                        對不起。我是老外。外國人吃花生時,我們就死。

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          WPP.

                                          Is that a subset of FWP?

                                          I love it.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            "對不起。我是老外。外國人吃花生時,我們就死。"....
                                            ________________________________________________________

                                            Translating (with some leeway for context) what you wrote:

                                            "Sorry, I'm not Chinese. When foreigners eat peanuts, we simply die."

                                            Consider a re-write.

                                            1. re: J.L.

                                              Not exactly J.L. It's even more hilarious than your translation.

                                              Mr Taster essentially said the following.

                                              "Sorry, I'm an old white person. When foreigners eat peanuts, we die."

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                again... with some leeway for context... :-)

                                              2. re: J.L.

                                                I meant it as a joke (that would still communicate the allergic need), even if it is inelegantly expressed :)

                                                So, is it grammatically correct?

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  This might be your best bet:

                                                  我不吃花生。我有花生過敏。

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    But that's no longer making fun of WPP and is therefore no longer funny (though it is functional)

                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                      我不吃花生。我有花生過敏。如果我吃花生, 我的舌頭會爆炸。("...my tongue will explode", humorous?)

                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                        Food allergies are not just WPP. I have a cousin in Taiwan who is allergic to shrimp. Shrimp! Taiwan! I feel really bad for her.

                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                        Since the severity of the allergy is not indicated, and I'm not sure how serious the staff would take that (Mr Taster already labeled it a WPP) I'd tack on: 如果我吃花生,我會死。

                                                        1. re: PeterCC

                                                          This is better.

                                                          如果你給我花生,我的家人會來殺你。

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            > This is better.
                                                            >
                                                            > 如果你給我花生,我的家人會來殺你。

                                                            At this point, the waitstaff whispers under his/her breath, "dickhead..."

                                                            1. re: PeterCC

                                                              Just make sure to call ahead to see if Chef Sergio is cooking.

                                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                                this is the single funniest thing i've read on chowhound in ages. kudos, j.l.

                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                              Ipse, you should add something like: "And this time, it will be personal".

                                                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                I would think killing someone over a peanut *is* personal.

                                                            3. re: PeterCC

                                                              That's more along the lines of what I was going for, but I replaced the personal pronoun with various iterations of "foreigner" to try and make it funnier.

                                                              Mr Taster

                                                          2. re: J.L.

                                                            That's hilarious. What should we call that? Englese? To contrast with (peanut-related) Chinglish: http://www.chineseenglish.com/2009/02...

                                                            1. re: PeterCC

                                                              This is my best effort using one of the online translation sites to get my point across: 我不是一头大象。请不要给我吃的花生

                                          2. re: bulavinaka

                                            For what it's worth, we stayed with friends in Hong Kong in 2006 and their opinion about cart service is that they're a relic from their grandparent's days.

                                            I report this with some sadness, since I love the experience of the carts, but there really is a huge difference in the quality of food. Any dim sum place that really cares about their food is going to follow the modern Hong Kong model.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Remember that in Hong Kong, the lifetime of a trend is probably less than ten years. Anything older than that is considered ancient.

                                          3. This question has been asked numerous of times. Taste is subjective and everyone has their own opinion. Many people like Sea Harbour or Elite but some like Ocean Star or NBC. Your personal taste may differ from mine. I like PV Palace in Lomita on certain days and then I like Ocean Star in Monterey Park on another. Service and availability could be a main key to the word "best". Price and taste could be another. I like Top Island in SGV for price but just the opposite for Sea Empress in Gardena. So many variables for being the superlative "best".

                                            1. Elite is my fave. Get the egg custard bun

                                              1. Ocean Seafood in Chinatown but I'm really sad to say that trying Yank Sing in San Francisco literally ruined LA dim sum for me. I haven't found anywhere that isn't mediocre in comparison so my dim sum con-SUM-sion, has tapered off to zero. I just never go anymore. Braving the crowds, and enduring the long shleps to get to the better LA places just for dim sum that is mediocre in comparison just isn't appealing any more. This is sad because I used to LOVE dim sum.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: OC Mutt

                                                  Have you been to Elite? I think it's better than Yank Sing.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    Nope. Haven't tried that one. I gave up on LA dim sum 5 years ago, and hadn't heard of that one at the time.

                                                    1. re: OC Mutt

                                                      You really should try Elite and Sea Harbour before giving up on LA dim sum. We tried Yank Sing last summer - the place on Spear is nice, but IMHO, Elite and Sea Harbour hold up well against it.

                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                        Giving up on LA dim sum is a bit drastic. Aside from Koi Palace in SF, LA's dim sum trumps dim sum in any other major US city. I easily prefer Sea Harbor to Yank Sing.

                                                        1. re: Porthos

                                                          Koi Palace is on our list the next time we're through the Bay area.

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                                            As well it should be. Dinners are even better than dim sum.

                                                      2. re: OC Mutt

                                                        All the best dim sum places in the LA area have opened up in the past few years, are menu driven, and clearly surpass the pre-existing cart style places. In addition to Sea Harbour and Elite, there are other places, such as King Hua and Lunasia, which also surpass the previous generation of dim sum favorites, including Ocean Star, NBC, 888, and all of the places in Chinatown.